RCA

The Strokes - First Impressions Of Earth (LP)

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Their prospects dangerously over-inflated by pundits who often hailed their debut as nothing short of rock-messianic, New York City's Strokes got a lesson in cynical rock-press dynamics when their biz-troubled, if similarly toned, 2003 sophomore set was dutifully dismissed as the proverbial sophomore slump. A lesser band might have been chastened by the experience; this one responded with a third album that positively bristles with energetic challenges. Revolving around a loose concept that allows songwriter/frontman Julian Casablancas to adopt a viewpoint that's as detached as it is world-weary and bemused, it's a record that quickly trades the often precious production conceits of its forebears for a muscular confidence that's notable from the infectious, back-to-the-80s opener 'You Only Live Once' to its perfect bookend 'Red Light.'

That often inviting sonic remodeling may come in part from Bangles/Sublime/Sugar Ray producer David Kahne (who replaces previous collaborator Gordon Raphael on all but a handful of cuts), but the band clearly has expansiveness on its mind, from a running length nearly twice its predecessors to such stylistic excursions as the cinematic, back-to-the-future riffing of the single 'Juicebox,' the spare, electro-baroque moodiness of 'Ask Me Anything,' and the dense, surprising prog flirtations of 'Electrocityscape.' 'On the Other Side' finds Casablancas convincingly casting himself as the anti-Bono while crooning 'I hate them, I hate them all, I hate myself for hating them' before chiding humanity as 'seven billion people who've got nothing to say' on the otherwise upbeat closer, 'Red Light.'

You Only Live Once

Juicebox

Heart In A Cage

Razorblade

On The Other Side

Vision Of Division

Ask Me Anything

Electricityscape

Killing Lies

Fear Of Sleep

15 Minutes

Ize Of The World

Evening Sun

Red Light